There is now a new map of where working memory resides in the brain
on 04 October 2020
Synaptic transmission

Memories, we all have them, every thought, feeling or behavioural outcome is, in some way, related to some form of memory, be it genetic, explicit (declarative or implicit (non-declarative). But how often do you stop to think about how wonderful memory is and why you should do all that you can to enhance and develop it? Mostly and sadly, the answer is, very little! So, for a moment, think about that, then remember the most wonderful experience you've ever experienced in your life  .  .  .

An interesting piece of research, if only for me, because of its discovery relating to the genetic workings of working memory. When you delve into the processes involved, at the cellular level, in what these receptors do, it is absolutely mind-boggling how these guys discovered this!  Although, I was a little confused as generally speaking, remembering the milk or memorising a number etc. was understood by me to be short term memory. The distinction being that there is no manipulation in short term memory, you're just remembering the milk, whereas, working memory allows you to manipulate the memory. Albeit, in the context of this article, naturally manipulating a memory is a different process than artificially/pharmacologically changing or adapting one. Contextually, it means the natural inherent ability to make amendments to the memory. Amendments that facilitate, in some way, the how, why and when of the memory and any derivatives later associated with its recall. This occurs in both working and long term memories and much more so, if they are emotional (spider phobia ones)! Every time a memory is recalled it gets updated (reconsolidated), in some sense, the stronger the long-termness, of the memory becomes, the more effective the updating is! The 'stronger' comment refers to a process called long term potentiation (LTP), a neurological process of strengthening memories through synaptic repetition and adaption, aka a habit. The opposite of this process is long term depression LTD and this is not in any way associated with depressive disorders. It simply means the weakening of a particular memory and occasionally, its associations. It's a form of natural attrition, maybe a little like the clean disk function of a Windows computer!

Much of the consolidation and reconsolidation of memories (with reference to long-term memory), occurs during sleep-dependent memory (re)consolidation, as in, while we sleep. In that context, I see short term memory as being more functional and working memory more procedural. That does not mean it is procedural memory, as in implicit/non-declarative, far from it.  It is more in the context of it being a step in a procedure that either evolves into a long term memory or is sent to the trash bin. So, as we learn and memorise something during the day (consciously and non-consciously), the brain holds it in a form of (working) memory that keeps it stable enough to later be (re)consolidated during sleep. Now you may be wondering what all this has to do with hypnosis? Well, hypnosis is used as a method of introducing a therapeutic intervention (hypnotherapy), with the hope of resolving an issue, e.g. anxiety, depression, smoking, insomnia (it's a very long list) etc. The connection is the conditions that hypnosis can resolve are dependent on changing the way genes express themselves and memories play a large part in that process. Therefore, hypnosis effects change through changing the way our brain expresses the chemical processes of particular memory(s), that ultimately affect the outcome, be it a thought or behaviour.

The particular gene they mention, GPR12 encodes G-Protein Coupled Receptor 12 (GPRCs). There are around 1000 GPCRs' and they are encoded by around 800 genes! These types of receptors are one of the most prolific in the brain and without them, well, life wouldn't be life. Essentially they work as cell membrane transporting agents, transferring a first messenger e.g. serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine etc. through the cell membrane. Once inside the cell the activation of a second messenger, e.g. cAMP (cyclic adenosine-mono-phosphate) takes place and that causes a physical or mental outcome. So, in that context, sensory processing and memories cause behavioural responses. Going on a flight and having something frightening happen, say severe turbulence, can create a sensory response, e.g. fight or flight. This can then create a memory relating to the perceived danger of flying and a fear of flying can develop. The fear is initially a consequence of the sensory experience and the process described above is the outcome of these types of sensory extra/intracellular signalling cascades. The later fear of flying becomes the consequence of the memory developed during that flight. From an anxiety perspective, we don't have to re-experience turbulence to discover flying is dangerous and we may die, the memory of it attempts to prevent us from flying! Therefore, no flying; no anxiety, voila! Everything we say, think or do is a result of these types of signalling cascades and in some sense, memories perform an algorithmic function. At a basic level, they are merely shortcuts to speed up responses, otherwise, we would have to re-experience/relearn everything, every time . . . boring!

Relating this to hypnosis-therapy is simple. Hypnosis, via therapeutic interventions and lifestyle adaptions, allows you to better understand the specific functioning in areas of your brain, and what we term the mind(s). From there to develop them towards creating and having a greater awareness of life, as it unfolds! Essentially it helps you to become more emotionally and cognitively functional. Oh, and by the way, life gets to feel a whole lot better too!

Hypnotherapy stands out as one of the most effective strategic life management methods there is, especially in its ability to promote clear thinking and good states of mental wellness. The behaviours that make life challenging are often a result of too much stress, too little or poor quality sleep and too little by way of mental and emotional clarity! So, to get or take back control of your mind and your life, it makes perfect sense to use a methodology that addresses the subconscious brain's role in perpetuating negative, vague and ambiguous states of mind. Hypnosis helps us to create calm relaxing states of mind that make life work better! If you would like to address any concerns you have in this direction, or, if you just want the ability to make your life feel better, then why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? Hypnosis gives you the ability to have a good life! 

My objective is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into emotional experiences that may actually be happening but for reasons, we may never have imagined! If you want to know more about Hypnotherapy, why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation? 

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here Or, to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here

The Research:

Working memory: it's how you make a mental shopping list without forgetting the milk or memorize a number just long enough to write it down. But working memory is more than a prerequisite for a successful errand -- the ability to briefly hold information in our minds lies at the heart of almost everything we do.

And, as a new study of forgetful mice shows, the brain processes behind this skill are more complex than commonly appreciated.

In a paper in Cell, the researchers present evidence that working memory isn't neatly confined to one brain area, but requires the synchronous activity of at least two. The findings challenge long-held assumptions that working memory is the job of just one part of the brain and help scientists pinpoint its genetic and mechanistic basis.

"There were in fact hints from earlier research that multiple brain structures are somehow involved in working memory," says Priya Rajasethupathy, a neuroscientist at Rockefeller University. "Our new findings give us more-tangible insights into what these areas are and how they are contributing."

Ingredients of good memory

Pioneering studies in the 70s and 80s traced the neural underpinnings of working memory to the brain's prefrontal cortex. There, neurons appear to preserve information by collectively firing for seconds to minutes, much longer than the millisecond norm for individual neurons. But this mechanism alone doesn't explain the more complicated aspects of working memory -- including, for example, how we can hold more than one item in mind, or face distractors and still remember the thing that we care about.

"It became increasingly clear that persistent activity in the prefrontal cortex, while important, can't be the whole story," says Rajasethupathy, Jonathan M. Nelson Family Assistant Professor.

To further investigate this, Rajasethupathy's team partnered with Praveen Sethupathy and his lab at Cornell University to explore how working memory functions among a special population of genetically diverse mice. "Unlike standard lab mice, these mice have a level of genetic diversity mirroring that of human populations," Sethupathy says, "This means some may be great at working memory tasks, and some not so much, and we can study what in their brain's physiology gives rise to that variability."

Mice can't recite a shopping list to show off their memory skills. But when put in a maze, they prefer to explore a new arm of the maze on every visit. How successfully a mouse finds new territory inside the maze is, therefore, a measure of its working memory.

As expected, the scientists saw broad variations in the mice's performance, and a subsequent genetic analysis highlighted one place in the genome that could explain a considerable portion -- 17 per cent -- of that variability.

There, the researchers found one gene with striking effects on the animals' working memory. By boosting its expression, they could turn a mouse from one who used to perform at the chance level to one who gets it right 80 per cent of the time -- or create more forgetful mice by hampering the gene's expression.

From genes to brain circuits

The team then investigated how this gene, which also exists in other mammals and humans, affects a mouse's brain and behaviour.

The gene encodes Gpr12, an "orphan receptor," so-called because it's unclear what molecule in the brain activates it. To their surprise, the researchers found these receptors are not in the prefrontal cortex, the presumed seat of working memory, but in neurons much farther away in the brain's thalamus.

High-performing mice had about 2.5 times more of these receptors in their thalamus than low-performing mice. Brain activity recordings revealed that these receptors help establish synchronous activity between the thalamus and the prefrontal cortex during working memory tasks.

This synchrony appears to be essential for maintaining memory, the researchers found: The higher it was, the more likely the mouse was to make an accurate "left or right" choice when it found itself at a fork in the maze, showing it had remembered the information obtained in a previous visit.

"We demonstrate that mice that perform better, have more of these receptors and are therefore able to establish more synchrony," Rajasethupathy said.

The findings expand classical models by revealing the crucial role of the dialogue between the prefrontal cortex and thalamus, suggesting new ways for researchers to think about working memory. Rajasethupathy and her colleagues plan to continue investigating the details of the role played by Gpr12 receptors -- work which may lead to potential therapeutic targets for treating deficits in working memory.

"It's rare to find a single gene with a strong influence on a complex cognitive function like working memory," she says. "But it happened to be true in this case, and it led us to unexpected mechanisms involved in working memory."


Story Source:

Materials provided by Rockefeller UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Kuangfu Hsiao, Chelsea Noble, Wendy Pitman, Nakul Yadav, Suraj Kumar, Gregory R. Keele, Andrea Terceros, Matt Kanke, Tara Conniff, Christopher Cheleuitte-Nieves, Ravi Tolwani, Praveen Sethupathy, Priyamvada Rajasethupathy. A Thalamic Orphan Receptor Drives Variability in Short-Term MemoryCell, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.09.011

Cite This Page:

Rockefeller University. "A revised map of where working memory resides in the brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 September 2020. <>